Effectively gauging the skill set of salespeople is an absolute must when recruiting, as well as when analyzing the performance of existing reps. This is what allows you to assemble an A+ team, get the most from your leads, and inevitably maximize revenue.
But with so many different factors, what exactly do you focus on?
While there are several skills recruiters analyze, there’s one that outshines all others at the top of the list.
The Ability to Close
Allego, a digital learning and enablement platform that focuses largely on sales training, performed in-depth research in a resource called The Ultimate Guide to Assessing Sales Rep Competency. In it, they examined the current state, as well as the future of sales competency.
This resource contains a ton of great information, including ramp times by industry, sales training approaches commonly used, and which specific skills determine sales competency. But one piece of data I found particularly interesting was where Allego identified the top eight sales skills managers assess in their reps.
“We looked at the eight key aspects of sales competency, including sales planning, prospecting, qualifying pipeline, pitching to prospects, negotiating contracts, closing deals, managing customers, and retaining customers,” they write. Of those eight skills, the number one that sales managers assess the most across the board is the ability to close at 70%.
And that’s not surprising. While other sales skills like prospecting new opportunities, making pitches, and negotiating are tremendously important, they pale in comparison to actually closing deals. In fact, you could ask, “What good does it do if a salesperson crushes every other aspect of the sales process but can’t seal the deal?”
The fact that 7 out of 10 managers assess the ability to close makes it the ultimate “bottom line metric” and the primary factor to consider when recruiting new reps, as well as analyzing the performance of current team members.
This begs the question.
How Should You Handle Underperforming Reps?
We now know that the ability to close is what you should look at most closely when recruiting new reps. Therefore, you’ll want to ask relevant questions during the interview stage, such as, “What was your close rate at your previous company?”
But what should you do with current reps that struggle closing deals and fail to hit their quota?
That’s another topic Allego examined in their research. According to their findings, the top three actions sales managers take to handle competency gaps are:
- Implementing performance improvements plans – 50%
- Increasing focus from management – 31%
- Increasing training – 15%
Allego summarizes it perfectly with this quote.
By these numbers, it’s clear that top sales managers take initiatives to put concrete performance improvement plans in place, have leaders place a bigger focus on helping reps improve, and generally offer a higher level of training.
Note that a very small percentage of sales managers fire reps at just 3%. Therefore, we can surmise that simply letting underperforming reps go isn’t usually the best solution, and successful companies opt for investing in their people.
Practical Tips to Help Reps Close More Deals
For the final part of this post, I’d like to share with you a few key strategies that are highly effective for helping salespeople increase their close rate.
One is to create a resource that’s designed specifically for overcoming sales objections. The purpose is to 1) identify common sales objections and 2) show reps how to respond in each situation. That way they can react instantly and efficiently disarm the situation using “muscle memory.”
HubSpot wrote an amazing post about the 40 top sales objections, with the top five being:
- It’s too expensive.
- There’s no money.
- We don’t have any budget left.
- I need to use this budget somewhere else.
- I don’t want to get stuck in a contract.
They also include rebuttals for each. I suggest reading over that post and using it to create a customized resource for your team members. That alone can be a huge help.
Next, work on ironing out any kinks in the lead handoff process from marketing to sales. As Allego pointed out earlier, 31% of sales managers increase their focus from management when reps aren’t closing as much as they should. It’s all hands on deck, and your whole team should work on moving marketing qualified leads (MQLs) to sales qualified leads (SQLs) with the least friction possible.
This may include:
- Using lead scoring to quantitatively rank leads so marketing knows the perfect time to hand them off
- Ensure marketing passes along notes to sales mentioning key information (e.g. a lead’s pain points or current software)
- Using meeting scheduling platform to strike while the iron is hot
For more on improving the MQL to SQL handoff, check out this article from Chili Piper.
Finally, provide ongoing support for your salespeople. I recently wrote a post that talked about looking past a rep’s initial development and equipping them with the tools to continually improve and stay engaged. And I can’t stress enough how important this is, especially when your reps are in a slump.
Not only can continual training help underperforming reps get back on track, it creates a framework for perpetual refinement that helps them operate at their absolute best.
Here are some ideas:
Assessing Reps on the Most Important Skill
A big part of successfully recruiting potential new salespeople and analyzing the performance of your current ones is knowing what specific skills to assess. While there are several that are important, the ability to close is the most important of all based on data. So, keep this in mind moving forward and use this as your bottom line metric.
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